Calcimine Paint / Possible Leak From a Bathroom Above

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2014 at 3:08 pm


I have an older house where the paint on the ceiling just doesn’t want to stick. Why is this happening?


According to the publication, “Old House Journal”, prior to 1940 Calcimine paint was widely used on ceilings (and sometimes walls) to avoid the problem of paint buildup.

Calcimine, (which is essentially a tinted chalk in a weak glue) was meant to be washed off before a new coating was applied. This assured having only a single layer of paint on top of your plasterwork, and all outlines stayed crisp and sharp.

When oil-based paints began to replace a calcimine, these new paints were often applied right on top of the old calcimine. That was a mistake. Over the years, the glue that holds the calcimine to the plaster weakens, as it does, it takes all the other paint layers with it.

There are a couple of ways to deal with chronic peeling caused by old calcimine. Allow the surface to continue peeling and touch it up periodically, or remove the calcimine and covering paint layers.

Calcimine dissolves in water, but you’ll have to use heat or chemicals to remove the water impervious paint on top of the calcimine. If you want, you can roughen up or scratch the paint and try steaming those layers off with a wallpaper streamer… Once you’ve exposed the plaster, wash the surface with T.S.P. (Trisodium Phosphate) and warm water, and then wipe the area with rinse water. Allow the area to dry thoroughly, and then prime it and you’re ready to repaint.

Sounds easy right? Easy to say; not to do.


I have a leak under a bathroom in my house. Could this be a plumbing leak?


I inspect a lot of houses and frequently find damage to the first floor ceilings under second floor bathrooms. There are a couple of possibilities.

The damage is oftentimes caused by water seeping into the joint between the tub wall and the tub. The caulking frequently dries out or pulls loose.

To correct the problem, remove the old caulk using a utility knife, or safety razor and then clean the surface completely with mineral spirits. You should then wipe everything down with Concrobium (available at home and hardware stores) to kill any mold or bacteria. Rinse and wipe until it’s thoroughly dry.

Now for the fun part! Fill the tub half full with water and get in the tub. (You can even bring some friends). Your weight and the weight of the water will drag the tub down so you’ll be filling the gap to its widest potential.

Don’t splash around because the wall and tub joint must be absolutely dry. Then caulk, using a silicone bathtub caulk. I’ve found that if you mix a small amount of soapy water in a cup you can use the soapy water and your finger to smooth the caulk into the crack giving it a nice concave, professional appearance.

Leave the tub filled with the water for several hours after the caulk has been applied allowing it to set and start to dry.

Another source of the leak is the trap under the tub or the plumbing in the wall. Look for the tub access panel, which is usually located in an adjoining room or closet. Open the access panel and look and feel around for any leak.

If you don’t find any, than the next thing to check is the toilet. Is the supply line leaking? Is there is a lot of condensation leaking from the box due to high humidity? Does the toilet rock? Is it loose? If so, you may need to pull it up and replace the inexpensive (three to four dollar) wax seal.

Finally, if all the inexpensive solutions fail and you still have a leak, do you have a stall shower? If so, you may have a shower pan leak. In older houses, under the shower tile floor is a lead pan. It wears out. When that happens, it causes damage to the sub-floor and ceiling below. Call a plumber or tile installer. Expect to pay at least $1000.00, OUCH!

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